Yet another loooooooong gap between posts, many apologies!
It’s not that I have gone off coffee… how could I? In fact, I am drinking more of the stuff than ever, it seems. Life just seems to be getting in the way again.
I am currently playing Coffee Consultant on a very part time basis, and staying home to look after Miranda, which is a full time job by itself. I am also scooping icecream at Dessart Sweets in the evenings, and I can highly recommend coffee and cardamom soft serve ice cream there! (made with real coffee grounds and ground green cardamom – SO GOOD!). My little espresso machine at home is getting vastly overused just to keep up with myself.
I do keep finding myself missing the days when I could sit in coffee shops for hours on end, tapping away on my laptop and writing things – blogs, my thesis, novels, poetry, even actual work, whatever… without interruption. I even made time to do this in my own coffee shop (admittedly, what I was usually doing then was keeping up my social media marketing for the place, or the accounts, neither of which was particularly relaxing!). After that, afternoon nap time, or the brief period between finishing work and picking Miri up from daycare were reserved for my coffee-and-writing time. Then, she decided naps were for babies and she was a Big Girl, and apparently expects attention and entertainment from 8.30am to 9.30pm with no let up. ” Good luck getting your own stuff done now, Mum!” And my coffee is grabbed on the go in a keepy cup, and my blogging time is confined to when she is watching TV and doesn’t notice me taking my eyes off her.
So, I pine for my Coffice. Actually working from home is verboten – “What you doing Mummy?” “I want to draw on that!” “You want to play with me Mummy!” (the last one is a statement, not a question.) So, at weekends when I have something urgent to do that requires concentration, I leave Miranda with her Dad and traipse downtown to find a good Coffice – that is, a Coffee Shop Office, from which I can guzzle coffee and work on my laptop in relative peace.
A good Coffice is hard to find. To my mind there are three critical elements and a few nice additions that turn a coffee shop into a coffice. The three most important things are:
- GREAT coffee (so you actually want to go in there)
- Free, reliable, wifi
- Baristas who don’t try to hurry you out/ create a welcoming environment
And of the “nice to have” elements:
- Accessible plug sockets
- Quiet, but not silent, atmosphere
- Sit-up tables (to sit an type at) and soft sofas (for meetings)
- Discounted refills!
Here in Regina, I have yet to find one that fulfills all these criteria. My favourite coffee shop doesn’t have wifi and has only just cottoned on to the idea of having tables to sit at, but the coffee is the best in the city. The best option, downtown, has mediocre coffee, plug sockets, and enough of a laid back, hipster crowd that I can sit with my laptop and pretend to be doing something highly intellectual and creative without feeling like I should drink up quick and leave, but the wifi is unreliable and slows down to the point of being unusable when there are more than three people connected. Finally, the last option has both reliable wifi, a good atmosphere to work in, plug sockets, cheap refills, but unfortunately, pretty rubbish coffee.
If When I open my own coffee shop again, I aim to make it the best Coffice space I can. So many people work away from their company office desk now – whether you are out meeting clients, or have to travel with your job, or you’re self-employed or freelancing and like me, can’t work at home for fear of Small Children or other interruptions, or students seeking a more social environment than the library to work in – coffee shops can provide a very useful, neutral and creative space.
Caffeine stimulates the brain, aids concentration and enhances your creativity. There’s even been research done that suggests that low level background noise, such as other people talking and the various machinery whirring in a coffee shop, is actually a more productive environment than complete silence. To this end, the slightly odd folk at Coffivity have invented a phone app and a website containing the streamed white noise from a busy coffee shop (where they don’t appear to ever grind coffee?!) for you to play to yourself if you are ever trying to concentrate in somewhere that isn’t actually a coffee shop. In fact, I have it playing in the background as I type this, as it is more preferable than absentmindedly listening to Miranda’s Go Diego Go show.
From the point of view of coffee shop owners – the best customers are repeat customers. People who “coffice” may use up valuable seats when you are busy, but get it right, and they will always be back for more. When I was writing my thesis, I’d go down to a local coffee shop, armed with as much money as I could afford, and stay until either my money or my laptop battery ran out. If the coffee shop had a plug socket, I’d spend a fortune. Several times a week. For FOUR YEARS. And then I’d bring my focus groups or interviewees in there, or just meet friends. Custom creates custom, happy customers bring more customers. Simples! Friendly service also creates a sense of obligation to buy more as well…
A final disclaimer: the ‘Coffice’ isn’t my own term, in fact, the concept was apparently dreamed up by some former Marketing executive, who realised there were whole communities of freelance workers who, like him, worked from coffee shops. He, (Sam Title – HI if you are reading this!) has a twitter account @thecoffice devoted to networking these freelancers, and there’s a website coming soon, too. I have already signed up – as a ‘cofficer’ for the moment, but hopefully, soon, to be a Coffice Manager again myself!!